Delta manslaughter sentencing delayed five months over handling of reports

NEW WESTMINSTER —  A B.C. Supreme Court judge wants the Ministry of Justice to explain why crucial reports for a manslaughter sentencing hearing in New Westminster on Thursday weren’t ready in time for the Crown and defence to form their arguments.

The sentencing hearing, as a consequence, has been delayed for five months.

Beatrice Thomas, 38, of North Delta was tried for second-degree murder but found guilty of manslaughter on July 11, for the July 3rd, 2011 stabbing death of her 37-year-old common-law husband Quannah O’Soup. He was killed during a domestic fight in a tiny half-duplex the couple rented in North Delta.

Thomas was to be sentenced Thursday. The ministry had five months since her conviction to prepare a Gladue report, which Canadian courts consider prior to sentencing aboriginal offenders.

Crown prosecutor Christopher McPherson told Justice Trevor Armstrong he received an "inadequate pre-sentence report," without a full Gladue, late Wednesday afternoon.

"We aren’t ready to proceed today," a frustrated McPherson told the court, noting this wasn’t a mere shoplifting case, but one involving manslaughter. "This is simply not acceptable."

Defence lawyer Victoria Desroches launched into a self-described "rant" over the matter. "Crown cannot give me their sentencing position without being fully informed," she said.

"At the end of the day, nothing is going to be achieved today," she said. "All someone had to do was their job."

All of Thursday was reserved for the hearing, which has now been adjourned to May 29, 2015.

Desroches noted that the court can’t pass sentence in a vacuum, "and that’s essentially what we have."

Meantime, Desroches said Thomas’s referral from Legal Aid has expired and she’s now representing her for free. "I will finish this file," she said, despite her availability being "miniscule" because she’s the only female aboriginal defence lawyer in B.C.

"To be put in this job because somebody didn’t do their job," she said, "(is) I can say frustrating to no end."

Desroches said O’Soup’s family members, who were in court Thursday, were "entirely overlooked" in the process.

Before Armstrong set the new sentencing date he said he wants the report’s author to explain how things went wrong. The judge added that all necessary reports must be provided to court officials by April 29.

Thomas remains on bail.

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